About the Museum of Ancient Cultures

About the Museum of Ancient Cultures

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Cypriot Bichrome Ware amphora (MU 3757).

About the Museum of Ancient Cultures

The Museum celebrates the diversity and cultural achievements of ancient societies, including Egypt, the Ancient Near East, Greece and Rome. Through research and education programs the museum relates their history and tells their stories to students, the academic community of Macquarie University and the wider community. More than 4000 ancient objects are the core of a research-driven exhibition narrative that explores ancient daily life, afterlife beliefs, religion, technology and popular culture.

Together with the large collection of ancient coins (Australian Centre for Ancient Numismatic Studies) and papyrus manuscripts, both the largest collections of their kind in the Southern Hemisphere, the Museum of Ancient Cultures (MAC) offers an unparalleled glimpse of the ancient world. Based on campus at Macquarie University, the museum is open to visitors Monday to Friday between 10am and 4pm.

Director's Welcome Message

With a history that had its beginning in 1974, the Museum of Ancient Cultures is unique in its kind and known as a major player in the exploration and display of ancient art in Australia. In addition to a variety of ancient artefacts, the museum offers two of the largest collections of their kind in the Southern Hemisphere: its papyrus collection and the Australian Centre for Ancient Numismatic Studies (ACANS).

Based on universal collecting practices, including finds from the University’s own previous excavations in Mediterranean countries, the MAC plays a crucial role in various research activities across the Department of Ancient History and beyond. Once designed as a teaching tool, the MAC has successfully developed into a research facility where it sees its main purpose as an inspiration for multidisciplinary strategic thinking and exploration. Recent collaborations with the University Library, the Art Gallery and the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, ranked by the most ERA valuation as 5 out of 5, are only some of our partners on campus, making the MAC a hub of knowledge and scholarly exchange. With three special exhibitions co-curated between October 2018 and March 2019 alone, the museum is a major player in enriching the cultural life on campus and a hub of knowledge and scholarly exchange.

Located in the heart of its campus, the Museum of Ancient Cultures advances the University’s commitment to cutting-edge research and teaching, offering students an unmatched opportunity to carry out multidisciplinary research. In addition, we welcomed over 5000 students from NSW schools in 2018 through our education programs, developed in line with the state’s school curriculum and led by a dedicated team of expert education officers.

Located less than 10km from the Sydney CBD and contributing to the rich cultural life of this vibrant city, the Museum of Ancient Cultures is in easy reach from all corners of the metropolis, and warmly welcomes you to make your own visit, whether in person or virtually through this website. And do stay tuned: in 2019-2020 the Museum will face the biggest overhaul in its history by moving into a brand-new, dedicated museum within the Arts Precinct at Macquarie University.

Prof Martin Bommas

The Collection

The Museum of Ancient Cultures (MAC) is a leading museum of Macquarie University, which actively supports a range of museums, collections, art galleries, a sculpture park and herbarium. The MAC is an archaeological museum that introduces modern minds to a number of cultures from the ancient world.

The MAC was originally founded in 1974 as the Ancient History Teaching Collection (AHTC). Our founding scholars, including the late Mr Graham Joyner, Emeritus Professor Edwin Judge and Emeritus Professor Bruce Harris believed that the development of an archaeological collection, including inscriptional material, was an excellent adjunct to the study of Ancient History from a source-based approach. Today, the collection has grown to more than 4000 ancient objects and also encompasses a papyrus collection and a coin collection.

The display area exhibits material from:

  1. Ancient Egypt - spanning from the Pre-Dynastic to the Graeco-Roman Period.
  2. Ancient Greek culture - from Minoan and Mycenaean material to the Hellenistic period.
  3. Ancient Roman culture - from the Villanovan and Etruscan periods to the fifth century AD.
  4. Ancient Cyprus - from Early Cypriot to the Late Iron Ages.
  5. Ancient Near East, including Ancient Israel and Mesopotamia - from the early 3rd millennium BC to the Late Iron Age.
  6. Indus Valley - a small collection of material from a Bronze Age civilisation located in what is Pakistan and northwest India today.

Papyrus Collection

The Museum holds the largest papyrus collection in the southern hemisphere with manuscripts written in Greek, Egyptian hieroglyphs, hieratic, Demotic, Coptic, Aramaic and Hebrew. This is an important specialist research collection that holds mostly Greek literary texts with prominent pieces including an Acts of the Apostles fragment and three early Christian letters from Oxyrhynchus.


The museum holds a varied coin collection used for teaching programs. This collection has been published by Associate Professor C.E.V. (Ted) Nixon (1996). Catalogue of the Coins in the Macquarie University Museum of Ancient Cultures. Macquarie University: Sydney, Australia.

Associated with the MAC is the Australian Centre for Ancient Numismatic Studies (ACANS). This is a specialist ancient numismatic research facility set up by Macquarie University with the direct support of generous benefactors, Dr W.L. and Mrs J. Gale and directed by Associate Professor Kenneth Sheedy. The mission of ACANS is to promote the study of ancient numismatics through initiatives in teaching and research and to provide support for these activities through the development of a library and numismatic collection.

Donors and Benefactors

Throughout the course of its history the MAC has benefited from the support of several individuals and societies.

The Foundation for the Study of Ancient Cultures

This Foundation was set up using a very generous donation by Mrs Monica Anderson to support the growth, development and expansion of activities by the Museum of Ancient Cultures.

Dr W.L. Gale and Mrs J. Gale

The museum's collection and activities have been greatly enhanced through the long-term support and patronage of Dr and Mrs Gale.

The Sir Asher Joel Foundation

The Sir Asher Joel Foundation promotes the study of the archaeology and history of Ancient Israel. It supports the association between Macquarie University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv University, supports MQ students participating in archaeological digs and research projects in Israel and brings international experts on ancient Israel to Australia.

Ancient History Societies

Over the years we have been fortunate to receive the support of organisations including the History Teachers' Association (NSW), the Macquarie Ancient History Association (MAHA), the Rundle Foundation for Egyptian Archaeology and the Society for the Study of Early Christianity (SSEC).

For information on donations and benefactions please contact the museum at macbookings@mq.edu.au.

Content owner: Museum Last updated: 07 Nov 2019 1:32pm

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